Beware the barrenness of a busy life.Socrates
In the San Francisco Bay Area, we are certainly not strangers to the busy life. We have some of the longest work weeks and commute times in the country, and most of us are used to functioning at a relatively fast pace.
I don’t think a busy life is necessarily a bad thing – in fact, the Bible has some stern warnings against the dangers of idleness (Proverbs 16:27). But I do think it’s a problem when you start to feel like it’s too hard to do what’s really important and fulfilling – like making a difference in the lives of those around us.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner beingEphesians 3:16
God wants to give us a kind of strength that goes beyond the physical and enables us to still do good no matter our external circumstances. When doing good for others feels hard, it’s usually a sign that we need more of this kind of internal strength. We need his help developing that strength we need to do good continually. Here are a few ways to get started.
1. Narrow your priorities
41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”Luke 10:41-42
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by things that aren’t really a big deal? Running that errand, planning that time with a friend, paying that bill, keeping up with your kids’ schedule – these are all normal responsibilities of life but sometimes they start to take over. In the verses above, Jesus tells Martha to stop sweating the details and choose to be concerned about what’s really important. He’s referring to Mary’s choice to slow down and listen to God’s teaching’s instead of running around busy.
Have you ever considered that your internal strength is directly connected to what you choose to prioritize? You may not get everything done that you are supposed to do, but you can choose to be close to God and prioritize listening to him. We do that by taking time to read the Bible daily, and listening to what God says in the Bible over our emotions.
2. Nab the real culprit
Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am in distress.Psalm 31:9-10
Tears blur my eyes.
My body and soul are withering away.
I am dying from grief;
my years are shortened by sadness.
Sin has drained my strength;
I am wasting away from within.
When I’m feeling overly stressed, I usually can list several circumstances that I think are causing me to feel overwhelmed and too busy. But often, the real culprit is a sin of some kind. When I’m honest with myself about my sin and how I’m handling my emotions, I’m able to see that there are different ways that I can respond to a situation.
The passage above says one of the things that drains our strength is sin. For example, when I want to look good and impress people sometimes I commit to things I can’t really do. Then, I get upset that I feel my life is so busy but the real culprit is my own pride, not my schedule.
If you need help identifying which sins could be affecting your internal strength, try reading over 2 Timothy 3:1-7 and Galatians 5:19-21 and asking yourself which of the sins in these passages you see in your life. The good thing about identifying sin is that while some stressors in our lives are out of our control, we can always choose to repent of sins we commit.
3. Never rely only on your own ideas
5 Place your trust in the Eternal; rely on Him completely;Proverbs 3:5-6 (VOICE)
never depend upon your own ideas and inventions.
6 Give Him the credit for everything you accomplish,
and He will smooth out and straighten the road that lies ahead.
Sometimes, you have to get creative with your schedule. Maybe you just had your first child and you can’t run the same play you used to when it comes to your schedule. Or maybe you’re adjusting to a new job or new responsibilities at work and feel overwhelmed just getting through the day.
In these situations, it’s easy for me to want to hunker down and start cutting extra stuff out of my life. But, when I look in the Scriptures I feel challenged because I don’t ever see scheduling as a reason why someone couldn’t serve or help another person. What I more often see is men and women who through some of the direst of circumstances still have a heart for others.
In order to have this kind of heart, I think we have to be willing to ask for and follow advice from spiritual friends and the Bible. Sometimes we get our own ideas in our head about how things have to be, and what our schedule needs to be like. For example – recently I had an errand to run and it was stressing me out. I couldn’t figure out when to do it. As I was venting to a friend she suggested I didn’t really need to run that errand and life would go on if I didn’t do it.
Hmm. Even though I was stressed, this is not what I wanted to hear. I wanted to be able to do everything and do it my way. In the end, she was right – I didn’t run that errand that day and life still went on. Relying on my own ideas of what needs to happen stresses me out unnecessarily.
How willing are you to listen to different ideas about your schedule, your parenting, or your priorities? How receptive are you when someone suggests that you do things differently than how you want to do them? God can straighten out our way and help us know how to handle life if we are willing to listen to his input on how to do it.